Finance Minister refuses to respond to Manmohan Singh’s statement
“I have no thoughts on what he said. He said it and I listened to it,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says about PM Manmohan Singh’s statement on the economic downturn.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday refused to respond to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s criticism of the state of the economy under the Modi government because of “manmade” causes.
She addressed the press hours after Dr. Singh expressed concern over the dwindling GDP growth rate – and in particular the fact that manufacturing growth had plummeted to 0.6-% -- but refused to comment on his remarks. The presser took place after Sitharaman’s interaction with tax officials in Chennai.
“Is Dr. Manmohan Singh saying that instead of indulging in political vendetta they should consult sane voices? Has he said it? All right, thank you. I will take his statement on it. That is my answer,” she said in reply to a question. “I have no thoughts on what he said. He said it and I listened to it.”
Hours earlier, Dr Singh had said in a video statement: “The last quarter’s GDP growth rate of 5-% signals that we are in the midst of a prolonged slowdown. India has the potential to grow at a much faster rate but all-round mismanagement by the Modi government has resulted in this slowdown.”
Sitharaman also skirted questions regarding the fall in GDP growth rate to 5-% in the first quarter of this financial year and job losses across sectors. She said that the majority of jobs are created in the informal sector and are not documented.
“The government has been in consultation with a lot of sectors. In some sectors, the inventory is piling up. We have heard them and announcements were made on August 23. Last Friday also we made some announcements.”
Speaking about the recent merger of some public sector banks – which brought down the number of state-owned banks from 27 to 12 – she said that there would be no retrenchments because of the merger.
Sitharaman’s statements come in the backdrop of distinctive signs of an economic slowdown in India. The GDP growth rate fall apart, there have been retrenchments in the recent months. The auto sector alone has reportedly seen 3.5-lakh retrenchments.
Apart from the falling sale of automobiles, even Parle, which makes biscuits, has been hit by falling demand. It may fire about 10,000 workers. Tractor sales are also dipping, with Mahindra and Mahindra witnessing a 15-% drop in tractor sales in August, 2019, compared to the same month last year.
Months back, an NSSO report leaked to Business Standard had shown unemployment at a 45-year high, but the government had refused to accept the report. It has accepted the figures after its decisive victory in the 2019 elections, which saw the ruling BJP win its best ever tally of 303 seats.